81-year-old Nepalese climber quits Everest attempt

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KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) - An 81-year-old Nepalese man has abandoned his attempt to climb Mount Everest, leaving a Japanese mountaineer with the record as the oldest person to scale the world's highest mountain.

Team member Dame said Wednesday that Min Bahadur Sherchan turned back Tuesday because weather conditions were worsening late in the spring climbing season for the Himalayas. He would have made the attempt sooner but had funding problems that were resolved only last week.

Sherchan became the oldest Everest climber in 2008 at age 76. He held the record until last week, when 80-year-old Japanese climber Yuichiro Miura scaled the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) mountain.

Miura, who returned to Tokyo on Thursday after his successful climb on May 23, expressed sympathy for Sherchan, saying he faced difficult odds due to the brief climbing window he was facing.

"He is to be pitied," Mirua said, criticizing the Nepal side for not ensuring Sherchan had adequate time to prepare for this ascent.

Money had been a big hurdle for Sherchan. He had no sponsors and it took until last week for the Nepal government to follow through on a promise to give him a grant and waive the $70,000 climbing permit fee.

By the time his financial problems eased, the weather got worse. The popular spring climbing season ends in May on Everest. Monsoon sweeps the country in June, making climbing high peaks impossible.

Reports said the route has become unstable because heat has made the slopes slippery and melted the ice chunks where ladders are fixed and ropes are tied. It has also been raining for the past few days in Nepal.

More than 500 climbers scaled the peak last week during the window of favorable weather conditions, but most climbers packed up and left the mountain by the time Sherchan was able to begin.

Dame, who uses only one name, said conditions were too dangerous for Sherchan to attempt the climb, and that it would have been difficult to get help had there been an emergency. He turned back soon after leaving the 5,300-meter-elevation base camp and was back in Katmandu, the capital, on Wednesday.

Sherchan's family members said Sherchan was planning to rest for now and hold a news conference in a few days to give his reasons for quitting the climb.

Miura, who seems to relish in speaking his mind, blamed what he called "questionable" people among the Nepalese authorities and questioned whether Sherchan had really trained for the ascent. But he and others in his team emphasized their great appreciation for the help Nepal and its people have given him over the years.


Associated Press writer Elaine Kurtenbach in Tokyo contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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